Richard Sutcliffe: Premier League surplus again comes up short of expectations

A YEAR ago, it was Jonathan Woodgate who ended up being the big-name loser when the Premier League’s new rule about managers having to name a 25-man squad came into force.

Despite much speculation beforehand, a similar fate did not befall Owen Hargreaves, Roque Santa Cruz or Andy Johnson, while Craig Bellamy was spared the ignominy of being cut by his manager at Manchester City courtesy of a loan move to Cardiff City a few days before the window had closed.

The exclusion of Woodgate prompted a rash of speculation – mainly from those who saw the new rule as quickly becoming a ‘one-stop’ guide as to what was likely to happen in the transfer market – as to how the defender would have to go out on loan to the Championship in an attempt to build up his fitness.

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In the end, Woodgate stayed put and returned to Spurs’ side, albeit just once and in the Champions League at, of all places, the San Siro, and is now happily ensconced at Stoke City following a summer move.

This time around, the most high-profile victim of managers having to name a squad list within 48 hours of the transfer window closing looked like being Manchester City’s out-of-favour Wayne Bridge.

Again, this prompted speculation that a manager in the Championship, such as Nigel Adkins at Bridge’s old club Southampton, might make a move once the loan window opened.

In the end, however, Bridge made it into the City 25 – albeit by default as Roberto Mancini, despite all the riches at his disposal, only named 24 players in his final squad.

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In theory, therefore, now the loan window is open the one-time England left-back may yet be on his way out of the Etihad Stadium in the not too distant future.

Elsewhere in the Premier League, it was a similar story with there being no big-name exclusions – mainly due to less than a handful of clubs managing to fill their quota.

In fact, only QPR, Stoke and Sunderland – three of the busiest clubs in the summer transfer window – joined Tottenham in managing to name a full 25-man squad a week ago.

This, in part, was down to the rules that state under-21s do not have to be included, which meant Arsenal’s list did not feature Jack Wilshere.

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Another explanation is that some clubs have had to cut their outlay and had a quiet summer as a result, the most notable example being Everton who were only able to name 18 players in his squad after losing Jermaine Beckford, Mikel Arteta and Ayegbeni Yakubu on deadline day.

Other clubs who came in noticeably light in terms of numbers were Liverpool (19), Newcastle (21) and Arsenal (22), while Blackburn reached a tally of 23 only by including Brett Emerton, who last week returned Down Under to play for Sydney FC.

The upshot of all this for Championship managers hoping to snap up surplus Premier League talent is that there may not be the rick pickings they had initially been hoping for.

In and among, however, there are still some nuggets with Leeds United manager Simon Grayson wanting Stoke’s Danny Pugh back at Elland Road since his omission from Tony Pulis’s 25. Pugh, who joined Leeds as part of the deal that took Alan Smith to Manchester United, is also coveted by Portsmouth.

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Two other Stoke players excluded, Michael Tonge and Tom Soares, are also interesting Pompey’s Steve Cotterill, while former Sheffield United winger David Cotterill is another in demand after being left out in the cold by Swansea City.

Just where this quartet and the many other top-flight players who do not figure in their manager’s plans right now will end up remains to be seen.

But, in terms of the Premier League’s 25-man squad rule, it seems, after just two seasons, that it will not become the ‘one-stop’ transfer guide that many had initially predicted.